Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Hibiki: a European premiere by Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Proms

Hibiki: sound, noise, echo, reverberation, harmony. Commissioned by the Suntory Hall in Tokyo to celebrate the Hall’s 30th anniversary in 2016, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s 50-minute Hibiki, for two female soloists, children’s chorus and large orchestra, purports to reflect on the ‘human reverberations’ of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and the devastation caused by the subsequent tsunami and radioactive disaster.

Janáček: The Diary of One Who Disappeared, Grimeborn

A great performance of Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared can be, allowing for the casting of a superb tenor, an experience on a par with Schoenberg’s Erwartung. That Shadwell Opera’s minimalist, but powerful, staging in the intimate setting of Studio 2 of the Arcola Theatre was a triumph was in no small measure to the magnificent singing of the tenor, Sam Furness.

Khovanshchina: Mussorgsky at the Proms

Remembering the centenary of the Russian Revolution, this Proms performance of Mussorgsky’s mighty Khovanshchina (all four and a quarter hours of it) exceeded all expectations on a musical level. And, while the trademark doorstop Proms opera programme duly arrived containing full text and translation, one should celebrate the fact that - finally - we had surtitles on several screens.

Santa Fe: Entertaining If Not Exactly (R)evolutionary

You know what I loved best about Santa Fe Opera’s world premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs?

Longborough Young Artists in London: Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice

For the last three years, Longborough Festival Opera’s repertoire of choice for their Young Artist Programme productions has been Baroque opera seria, more specifically Handel, with last year’s Alcina succeeding Rinaldo in 2014 and Xerxes in 2015.

Full-throated Cockerel at Santa Fe

A tale of a lazy, befuddled world leader that ‘has no clothes on’ and his two dimwit sons, hmmmm, what does that remind me of. . .?

Santa Fe’s Trippy Handel

If you don’t like a given moment in Santa Fe Opera’s staging of Alcina, well, just like the volatile mountain weather, wait two minutes and it will surely change.

Santa Fe’s Crowd-Pleasing Strauss

With Die Fledermaus’ thrice familiar overture still lingering in our ears, it didn’t take long for the assault of hijinks to reduce the audience into guffaws of delight.

Santa Fe: Mad for Lucia

If there is any practitioner currently singing the punishing title role of Lucia di Lammermoor better than Brenda Rae, I am hard-pressed to name her.

Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen at Grimeborn

Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen can be a difficult opera to stage, despite its charm and simplicity. In part it is a good, old-fashioned morality tale about the relationships between humans and animals, and between themselves, but Janáček doesn’t use a sledgehammer to make this point. It is easy for many productions to fall into parody, and many have done, and it is a tribute to The Opera Company’s staging of this work at the Arcola Theatre that they narrowly avoided this pitfall.

Handel's Israel in Egypt at the Proms: William Christie and the OAE

For all its extreme popularity with choirs, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt is a somewhat problematic work; the scarcity of solos makes hiring professional soloists an extravagant expense, and the standard version of the work starts oddly with a tenor recitative. If we return to the work's history then these issues are put into context, and this is what William Christie did for the performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 1 August 2017.

Sirens and Scheherazade: Prom 18

From Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, to Bruch’s choral-orchestral Odysseus, to Fauré’s Penelope, countless compositions have taken their inspiration from Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps not surprisingly given Homer’s emphasis on the power of music in the Greek world.

A new La clemenza di Tito at Glyndebourne

Big birds are looming large at Glyndebourne this year. After Juno’s Peacock, which scooped up the suicidal Hipermestra, Chris Guth’s La clemenza di Tito offers us a huge soaring magpie, symbolic of Tito’s release from the chains of responsibility in Imperial Rome.

Prom 9: Fidelio lives by its Florestan

The last time Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was performed at the Proms, in 2009, Daniel Barenboim was making a somewhat belated London opera debut with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

The Merchant of Venice: WNO at Covent Garden

In Out of Africa, her account of her Kenyan life, Karen Blixen relates an anecdote, ‘Farah and The Merchant of Venice’. When Blixen told Farah Aden, her Somali butler, the story of Shakespeare’s play, he was disappointed and surprised by the denouement: surely, he argued, the Jew Shylock could have succeeded in his bond if he had used a red-hot knife? As an African, Farah expected a different narrative, demonstrating that our reception of art depends so much on our assumptions and preconceptions.

Leoncavallo's Zazà at Investec Opera Holland Park

The make-up is slapped on thickly in this new production of Leoncavallo’s Zazà by director Marie Lambert and designer Alyson Cummings at Investec Opera Holland Park.

McVicar’s Enchanting but Caliginous Rigoletto in Castle Olavinlinna at Savonlinna Opera Festival

David McVicar’s thrilling take on Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered as the first international production of this Summer’s Savonlinna Opera Festival. The scouts for the festival made the smart decision to let McVicar adapt his 2001 Covent Garden staging to the unique locale of Castle Olavinlinna.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at Covent Garden

The end of the ROH’s summer season was marked as usual by the Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance but this year’s showcase was a little lacklustre at times.

Sallinen’s Kullervo is Brutal and Spectacular Finnish Opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival

For the centenary of Finland’s Independence, the Savonlinna Opera Festival brought back Kari Heiskanen’s spectacular 1992 production of Aulis Salinen’s Kullervo. The excellent Finnish soloists and glorious choir unflinchingly offered this opera of vocal blood and guts. Conductor Hannu Lintu fired up the Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra in Sallinen’s thrilling music.

Kát’a Kabanová at Investec Opera Holland Park

If there was any doubt of the insignificance of mankind in the face of the forces of Nature, then Yannis Thavoris’ design for Olivia Fuchs production of Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová - first seen at Investec Opera Holland Park in 2009 - would puncture it in a flash, figuratively and literally.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Cast of Show Boat, Lyric Opera of Chicago [Photo by Robert Kusel courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
19 Apr 2012

Show Boat at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago has begun with the current season’s production of Show Boat a series of musicals of the American theater to be featured in coming years.

Jerome Kern: Show Boat

Click here for cast and production information.

Above: Cast of Show Boat, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Photos by Robert Kusel courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

Francesca Zambello applied her directorial talents to the current production and allows Show Boat to speak for itself as a straightforward and entertaining piece of theatrical tradition. Featured cast members include Ashley Brown as Magnolia Hawks, Nathan Gunn as Gaylord Ravenal, Alyson Cambridge as Julie, Angela Renée Simpson as Queenie, Morris Robinson as Joe, Ross Lehmann as Captain Hawks, Cindy Gold as Parthy Ann Hawks, and Ericka Mac as Ellie May Chipley. John DeMain conducted the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

After the overture settled from a brassy start into familiar melodic lines, DeMain highlighted rhythmic shifts to good effect. The “Cotton Blossom” song, named for the riverboat with its staged entertainment, was performed with choral energy yet individual phrases could profit from greater emphasis on diction. The argument between the engineer Pete and the actor Steve, which motivates so much of the subsequent conflict, is convincingly staged. Others members of the ship’s community react immediately to Steve’s dismissal and to the isolation of his wife Julie LaVerne. In the role of the undertalented Ellie May, Ms. Mac sings intentionally off-key and overcompensates charmingly in her attempts to portray an ambitious yet ill-trained replacement for Julie in the ship’s roster of actors.

The arrival of Gaylord Ravenal introduces the second dramatic and emotional twist that will have an effect on the remainder of the piece. It is a role that suits Mr. Gunn’s voice and dramatic talents well. In his first song, “Who cares if my Boat Goes Upstream?” Gunn’s sense of line adds to the carefree swagger of Ravenal’s personality. Here and elsewhere the orchestra could serve the soloist better if taken less forte in its enthusiastic accompaniment. The pivotal duet with Magnolia, “Make Believe,” was performed touchingly by Ms. Brown and Mr. Gunn, as the impression of a naïve yet convincing affection was kindled. When left to consider her thoughts, Magnolia asks Joe the husband of Queenie whether this attraction could be a signal of love. As sung by Mr. Robinson, the response of Joe, “Ol’ Man River,” is one of the highlights of the production. Robinson portrays Joe with dramatic physicality and with fully assured vocal technique. His sonorous bass is rich and full in even the lowest pitches, and his legato matches the rolling pull of the river. When Robinson repeats the song subsequently with male chorus, the effect is equally striking. Magnolia’s second confidante Julie hears next of the budding romance. After the trusting exchange with Magnolia, Ms. Cambridge sang the well-known comment on love, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.” Cambridge showed here a firm sense of musical line as it supported the text yet the enunciation of lyrics was overly careful. After Ravenal’s gambling song, performed with spirited determination by Gunn, the remainder of Act I alternates between staffing the showboat’s entertainment and the developing romance of the protagonists.

Show_Boat_Chicago_02.png

Because of Mississippi racial laws the marriage of Julie and Pete is questioned, a complication leading to her dismissal as lead in the musical show. Captain Hawks decides that his daughter Magnolia will substitute since she is familiar with the numbers from having attended rehearsals. Almost simultaneously Ellie May performs with female chorus the comment, “Life on the Wicked Stage.” Ms. Mac assured that the number was an exhilarating showstopper with all pitches at this point sung correctly. The love between Magnolia and Ravenal blooms, just as they rehearse the fictional parts of lovers on the stage. Brown and Gunn gave a convincing rendition of “You are Love” as they make plans for their own wedding in keeping with the stage-show’s narrative. As Act I ends, stories about Ravenal’s past do not deter Captain Hawks from supporting the marriage yet his wife Parthy’s reaction hints at domestic difficulties in Act II.

In the second act as arranged for this production the chronological sequence unfolded smoothly. The individual scenes cover a span of several decades in the domestic and emotional lives of Magnolia and Ravenal. Only the first scene taking place at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago gave any indication of the idyllic marriage promised by the lyrical exchange in the first act. The birth of a daughter hardly deters Ravenal from his continued gambling. Indeed one of the most emotionally moving scenes in Act II is Gunn’s departure from his daughter staged in the convent school. The reprise of “Make Believe” in this scene recalls earlier happiness and looks wistfully toward a future reconciliation. For her part Ms. Brown’s portrayal of Magnolia as an independent performer after having been left by Ravenal was achieved with both vocal and dramatic skill. Her voice matured noticeably as she sang “After the Ball,” and sheer confidence could only describe her solo appearance in a Ziegfield show in New York. Since Queenie had attended these latter performances, she repeats one of Nola’s popular numbers back on the show boat. Ms. Simpson sings “Hey Feller!” with gusto and decided glee in her committed enthusiasm. The final reunion of Magnolia, Ravenal, and their daughter takes place, appropriately, where the romance began with the hope of a transformed future.

Salvatore Calomino

Show_Boat_Chicago_04.png

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):